What is ITSM? Getting Started with IT Service Management

Today's IT teams have more responsibilities than ever before, and IT systems are becoming more complex daily. You need to ensure that your IT professionals are equipped to manage them effectively by prioritizing issues, aligning IT services with business needs, and quickly identifying problems and areas for growth.

That’s where ITSM comes in. By integrating and streamlining IT services, ITSM helps ensure that your IT team can do its job efficiently while giving end-users everything they need to thrive in their own roles.

What is ITSM?

ITSM, or IT service management, governs how your IT team provides services to end users like customers and employees. ITSM is driven by the idea that IT departments should operate according to a service-based model where they deliver and manage solutions on an ongoing basis, rather than setting them up and waiting until something breaks to revisit them.

ITSM encourages a holistic view of IT that doesn’t differentiate between backend IT tasks like managing servers and frontend services like providing help-desk support to end-users. It goes far beyond basic “IT support” and focuses on integrating all types of IT services into a single management framework, encompassing everything from troubleshooting an app to building an IT knowledge base.

ITSM also emphasizes the alignment of business goals with IT services. When your IT team is aware of the broader business context in which it operates, it will focus on those services that provide the greatest value at the least cost.

ITSM vs. ITIL

The most popular framework for ITSM is ITIL, or the IT Infrastructure Library, which defines best practices for delivering IT services. Rather than a set of iron-clad rules you have to follow, ITIL provides a set of useful practices that you can incorporate and adapt to create an ITSM methodology that’s perfectly suited for your company. ITIL 4, the latest version of the framework, is a great foundation for your ITSM strategy.

Why does ITSM Matter?

ITSM keeps IT teams from operating in a bubble. If you're an IT engineer, it's easy to become myopic and focus narrowly only on technical priorities, like the uptime of your servers or on how quickly you can deploy application updates. While these technical goals are important, they’re not the be-all, end-all of IT work. Maximizing the uptime of every server may not always be the best use of IT resources if there are more important IT services to prioritize, for example. And there may be different approaches or tools available that can help you to provide the same IT services you currently offer in a more cost-effective way.

When properly managed, ITSM provides a range of benefits to IT teams and the larger business:

  • Efficiency: Effective ITSM saves time for IT professionals — which is critical given that more than half of IT pros already work more than forty hours per week. It can also reduce the overall complexity of IT systems and, in turn, improve productivity, according to the 76 percent of IT pros who identify IT complexity as the biggest barrier to productivity enhancements.
  • Cost savings: Two-thirds of IT professionals believe that their colleagues in other departments see IT services as costing too much. By helping to identify IT services that are unnecessary, or that are currently being managed inefficiently, ITSM reduces the cost of providing IT services and leads to a higher ROI.
  • Reliability: ITSM puts IT teams in a position to minimize the risk of disruptions to IT services and, by extension, reduces the chance of problems that could hinder the business's ability to operate.
  • Better service for end users: Whether they’re customers or fellow employees, ITSM gives your team the understanding it needs to anticipate the needs of end users and better support them.

Key ITSM Processes

ITSM involves some core processes that are common to most IT teams and organizations.

Incident Management

All IT teams need to monitor for and respond to disruptions in service. Servers or network connections may go down, end-user devices may fail to start, and so on. An IT service desk — an organization’s single point of contact for assisting users with IT issues — is a critical tool for identifying which issues to prioritize, as well as ensuring the right people respond to each. Users can keep their service desk in-house, or they may find an outsourced service desk less expensive.

Change Management

IT systems and services are constantly evolving, so your team must handle upgrades, planning to deploy new systems, and decommissioning IT resources that are no longer in use while carefully managing changes to ensure they don't lead to unexpected issues or break other systems. Robust testing is a key part of change management. IT teams may also adopt approaches like blue-green deployment — swapping staging and production servers — in order to minimize the risk of downtime caused by changes.

Problem Management

It's one thing to solve problems. It's another to manage them holistically in order to ensure that your team understands why a problem occurred, which IT resources it affected, and how to avoid similar problems from recurring in the future. In ITSM, problem management takes on all of these tasks. Problem management must be tailored to the nature of each IT service that your team manages, because the scope and severity of problems may vary widely from one type of service to another.

Knowledge Management

Ensuring that team members have the information they need to work with, manage, update and replace IT services is a critical requirement for any organization. It can also be a challenging one due to the difficulty of implementing and enforcing strategies that record all of the necessary information about IT systems while making that data easy to find.

Knowledge management addresses these challenges. It defines the procedures and tools that IT teams use to record and access the information they need to provide services. It also helps ensure that critical knowledge is retained even when IT pros come and go from the team.

Asset Management

Most IT departments have a range of physical as well as virtual assets to manage. They must keep track of servers, networking hardware, storage devices, applications, licenses, and so on. The fact that some resources may move around, like laptops or smartphones assigned to employees, makes asset management especially challenging.

To address these needs, ITSM includes processes for identifying and maintaining all of the IT assets within an organization. It also involves evaluating the role that different assets play in the business and determining which are most important for meeting core business goals.

Information Security

Security is an ever-present challenge for IT teams, and IT security incidents are on the rise. Although some organizations may have dedicated personnel on staff who specialize in IT security, all members of the IT team must nonetheless do their part to ensure that the services they provide are secure and that the data and systems required to provide those services are properly managed.

Architecture Management

Architecture management helps the IT team determine how they should plan to structure and develop their services moving forward to best meet business needs. It involves identifying new architecture requirements and opportunities that may arise as the business evolves or as new types of architecture solutions — such as a hybrid cloud framework — become available. A trusted third-party provider can help you identify and meet your IT needs.

Compliance Management

Modern organizations of all types are affected by regulatory frameworks like the GDPR, FedRAMP, and HIPAA.  As a result, compliance management has become increasingly important for IT teams worldwide. IT departments must identify the compliance requirements that apply to their organization, then develop IT services that align with those needs.

ITSM Tools

ITSM involves identifying the hardware and software required to provide the IT services you need and ensuring it remains in working order. These may include configuration management databases (CMDBs), dedicated applications like Jira Service Desk, and the devices your team will use to get their work done on a daily basis.

When choosing tools to drive your ITSM strategy, consider how the tool will fit into your organization's existing processes and infrastructure. If the fit isn’t great and the value the tool offers isn’t substantial, you may want to look for another. You should also solicit feedback from team members in all parts of your company — along with customers — to see what tools will benefit them the most. And you should consider working with an experienced third party to  customize the tool to better suit your company’s unique needs.

Beyond the software and hardware you need to provide IT services, you should consider software designed to streamline and manage related processes. Project management tools like Jira Software and Jira Core help businesses plan new initiatives and identify the IT services necessary to support them. And tools like Confluence can help manage knowledge much more efficiently than spreadsheets or wikis.

ITSM Done Right

The many critical practices that ITSM encompasses can be overwhelming to manage on your own. Thankfully, the experts at Contegix can help ensure that your organization does ITSM right. From an exceptional IT service desk to expert professional services to comprehensive solutions for the ongoing management, support and maintenance of your entire technical infrastructure, Contegix has you covered. If you’re looking for a trusted partner to help you manage risks, reduce costs, and focus on strategic priorities, contact Contegix today.